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  • Jemicah C Marasigan

How Workshops in Schools Can Save Ontario’s Art Curriculum

The current education system is killing creativity—and that’s a problem.

Pablo Picasso once said, “All children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”

It’s a sentiment Sir Ken Robinson quoted in his 2007 TED Talk and 13 years later, it still holds weight: we as humans are educated out of our creativity.

It’s far from a foreign concept that within Western social constructs, math and science classes are praised, while more creative outlets like music and visual arts are overlooked. Academic success is the gauge for intelligence, where creativity is seen merely as a hobby.

According to Sir Robinson, the current education structure and hierarchy was created in relation to industrialism, dating back centuries. In layman’s terms, academically speaking, humans pursued and nurtured academic programs that could help them get a career. Pursuing anything outside of this norm is often seen as a flight of fancy and could “never truly pay the bills.”

Yet, what most people don’t realize is that art is more than just artistic expression through various mediums.

Creativity is actually more valuable now, and especially in the future with artificial intelligence. We'll need creative people to design our world: our entertainment, technology, buildings, furniture, clothing, systems...and the list goes on.

Pursuing the arts doesn’t always mean a child will end up in an art-based career. At its very core, the arts are also key in childhood development.

Much research indicates that art truly helps children succeed in all aspects of life. From encouraging emotional expression, to creating cultural awareness, to increasing imagination and innovation, to supporting social interaction, and kick-starting knowledge, art truly prepares children to seize life with an openness and awareness that allows them to think outside of the box.

However, despite all this evidence, when provincial budget cuts occur, the Ontario Arts Curriculum is one of the first to be negatively affected.

How we’re currently raising artists in schools:

While visual arts programs are offered in elementary and high school settings, the amount of knowledge and techniques taught are quite limiting.

Growing up, I remember participating in art projects like 1-point perspective, pointillism, and symmetry drawing, during my middle school days. And while I often had fun for that hour or so sketching out my work, I vaguely remember still feeling like I wasn’t reaching my full artistic potential. In order for me to learn the basics of figure drawing or even turning a circle into a sphere, through shading, my parents had to enroll me in art classes outside of the school setting. While my foray into the arts was over a decade ago, not much has changed in the arts curriculum since.

When it comes to math and sciences, teachers are often subject matter experts. With such objective subjects, there is such a thing as a right and wrong answer. However, with a subjective program like visual arts, there is less of an expectation when it comes to the knowledge teachers are required to possess in order to train their students in both visual interpretation and technical skills.

Currently, art workshops at elementary school levels are limited by the Ontario Arts Curriculum, and existing classes focus more on theme-based learning rather than teaching art techniques.

Couple this fact with the constant budget cuts and over-capacity class sizes, teachers are faced with less time to provide proper one-on-one time with students, working hard to ensure that students are reaching curriculum standards.

At the same time, most elementary school teachers aren’t supported or professionally trained in visual arts, making it difficult to provide skilled hands-on teaching of techniques. It’s no surprise that many teachers panic or scramble trying to figure out the best way to teach art in their classrooms.

And while art opportunities get a little better in secondary school, art workshops for high schools still require supplemental help from art workshops that can fill in the gaps. Compared to elementary programs, high school art programs require that art teachers have a visual arts degree in order to provide more technical training. However, classes are still limited to small school budgets and storage space, short windows of time,or larger class sizes, resulting in limited one-on-one time.

This is detrimental to students wanting to pursue careers in visual arts, design, or animation. During application processes for specialized post-secondary art schools and programs, like OCAD and Sheridan, students are expected to present extensive art portfolios. Most often than not, most institutions require examples of life drawing, where students need to draw from a live model. Unfortunately, most high schools don't have the resources to hire models.

Winged Canvas believes more needs to be done — and here’s how we can help.

Teachers: you don’t need to be the next Picasso or van Gogh. If you’re stressed trying to find the most effective way to teach art to your students, look for community partners specializing in visual arts education, like Winged Canvas. We specifically created art programs and teaching resources to cater to any and all teacher requests, ensuring your students get the right guidance on their artistic journeys. Our team works hard to provide art workshops that complement the Ontario Art Curriculum. By bringing on-site art workshops to schools, Winged Canvas’ award-winning artists can work collaboratively with teachers to help elementary school students hone their skills. Through our art workshops, our instructors can come to your classroom or welcome you to visit us with a studio field trip. We also offer art workshops in cartooning, drawing, and painting, where lessons focus on teaching techniques step by step. Similarly, we’re happy to work with teachers to design a workshop that is integrated with other subjects and themes, like social issues, culture, art history, and even anime.

Grade 3 students at Lambton-Kingsway Junior Middle School show off their creations from their cartooning workshop.

For high schools, we offer workshops and certifications for SHSM Arts & Culture for those in Grade 11 or 12. Our main focus is to provide students with hands-on visual arts training in life drawing, career talks, art portfolio development workshops, character design, and animation. Through these programs, we help creative high school students prepare for successful futures, pursuing what they love to do.

Grade 11 and 12 SHSM Arts & Culture students at St. Brother Andre Catholic High School learn figure drawing from a live model.

Together, we want to work collaboratively with teachers and schools alike to assist in fostering students’ and teachers’ creativity on top of the Ontario Arts Curriculum, while helping students grow in an artistic space.

Using our signature Art N.E.R.D. Teaching Method, all our programs and workshops aim to nurture, explore, recreate, and design. We truly believe in helping children and teens grow into the artists they always have been.

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